Tasmania Devils hope wave of support convinces doubters

Ethan James |

Local students show their support for the Tasmania Devils at the Campbell Town Football Club.
Local students show their support for the Tasmania Devils at the Campbell Town Football Club.

Tasmania’s AFL club has smashed its inaugural membership target in what is hoped sends a loud signal to politicians and others who aren’t on board. 

The league’s 19th franchise, slated to enter the men’s and women’s competition in 2028, launched on Monday night as the “Devils” with a traditional green, yellow and red strip. 

The club released $10 memberships, hoping to get 40,000 people signed up by October. 

That mark was reached inside two hours, with 75,000 having joined by midday Tuesday. 

Club chair Grant O’Brien said the launch was a big step forward, also revealing negotiations with Warner Bros to use the Devils name went right down to the wire. 

“We can now speak with 75,000 members behind us when we’re looking at the next steps we’ve got to take,” he said on Tuesday at Campbell Town Football Club. 

“We will also use it when we go to talk to politicians and other stakeholders … stadium and infrastructure being part of (those conversations).”

O’Brien said discussions with Warner Bros to use the mascot were initially tricky, and included some convincing about the animal’s existence.

“When it got to the point of them understanding the Tasmanian devil was actually a real animal, things freed up,” he said.

“They understood why we were so keen to have our own animal represent the team.

“It got done at the last minute, but we were confident we’d get there, and they’ve been fantastic.” 

Tasmania Devils stickers
The Devils’ mascot is being used under an intellectual property sharing agreement. (Ethan James/AAP PHOTOS)

O’Brien said the mascot is being used under an intellectual property sharing agreement and no money had changed hands. 

Tasmania’s licence is contractually tied to the construction of a new $715 million 23,000-seat roofed stadium at Macquarie Point in Hobart. 

The stadium has proven divisive politically and in the community, and has been a big talking point in the lead-up to Saturday’s state election.

The Liberals, who signed the deal and back the stadium, are chasing a fourth term in government. 

Labor leader Rebecca White has pledged to try to renegotiate the deal, describing the project as not the right priority amid health, education and housing issues. 

White has indicated she would prefer to see a team thrive at existing venues before new infrastructure is considered.

Various minor parties and independents, who could hold crucial balance-of-power positions in a new parliament, have a range of views. 

Irrespective of who forms government, the stadium must still be independently assessed and voted through both houses of parliament.

Former Collingwood coach Mick Malthouse recently accused the AFL of  “enforcing” the stadium on a small state that doesn’t need it.

O’Brien said the club was standing “shoulder to shoulder” with the AFL, who insist the deal is locked in and not open to movement. 

“The election is up to the people and the people will decide,” he said.

“With … what we’ve seen in terms of the public reaction, I don’t think (the momentum) can (be stopped).”

Jack Riewoldt
Richmond great Jack Riewoldt says the membership numbers send a “loud message” to everyone. (Ethan James/AAP PHOTOS)

Hobart-born Richmond great Jack Riewoldt, who has been involved in setting up the club, said the membership numbers sent a “loud message” to everyone. 

“Hopefully there are people out there, maybe sitting on the fence, (who) can see there is a powerful movement here,” he said. 

“They’re all welcome on board.” 

As part of the contract with the AFL, the club will suffer financial penalties if the stadium doesn’t meet certain build dates. 

It will play at Blundstone Arena in Hobart and Launceston’s University of Tasmania for its first year.

The club hopes to announce a CEO mid-year and have them in the job in early 2025.

AAP